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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Handwritten wills - Don't even think of going there!

It sounds so easy.  Write down who gets what and sign the paper.  There is your will!  Not so fast, I say! And come to find out, so does the Colorado Bar Association (CBA).

The Colorado Bar publishes great brochures relating to wills, guardianships, and what to do when someone dies (see the end of this blog for the link to these brochures).  What do they have to say about hand-written wills?

"How should a will be done?
A will may be handwritten or typed, and it must be signed and dated by the willmaker (or at the willmaker’s  direction).  The will must be witnessed by two uninterested parties, and should be notarized.
You are strongly encouraged to work with an attorney to write your will, but Colorado generally recognizes handwritten, or “holographic,” wills.  Drafting a will requires special skills, and holographic wills are frequently found to be ambiguous or defective, causing delay, expense, and possibly litigation."

I speak from experience when I say handwritten wills are not a good thing to do.  My mother wrote out her wishes on a sheet of paper and gave it to me.  When she became ill, I completely forgot about it as I had not looked at it for years.  And come to find out, her "will" was really more of a medical declaration of what she wanted to happen during a medical emergency or the end of her life. 

Had she had a lawyer help her with her will and medical declarations, I really believe that the end of her life would have been much easier, not just on her, but on her loved ones, too.  With five daughters, all very strong minded, I might add, we all had ideas of how Mom should be taken care of.  But what did Mom want?  We all remembered different conversations with Mom and brought in our own flavor of what to do at the end of life.  It was very difficult for all of us, something I know my mom would never have wanted for us.  

When thinking about writing your own legal documents, please think again.  It may sound easy to write down what you want to happen after you die, but it can turn out to be a whole different story when you are no longer here to clarify questions that come up.  This is especially important when deciding who will care for your minor children.  

Don't take chances that your legal documents will meet state requirements and everyone will know what you want from a piece of paper with your signature on it.  Find an estate lawyer to work with.  

Not sure how to find an estate lawyer?  Check out my book that has a section dedicated to finding and working with estate lawyers:  Six Easy Steps to Find the Right Estate Lawyer for You

I promise you, it will be less expensive to work with an estate lawyer now than to have a court step in after you are gone because your handwritten will is not considered valid.  Do it once and do it right.  Your loved ones will thank you!

As promised above, here is the link to the Colorado Bar Association's on-line brochures: 

Take care,

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